Taseko seeking ‘very substantial’ damages

Mining company alleges government conduct was 'unlawful'

The company looking to develop the New Prosperity Mine near Fish Lake southwest of Williams Lake is seeking to combine two ongoing judicial reviews – asserting the federal government’s decision earlier this year to reject the project was badly flawed – into one civil action.

That application will be heard in federal court on Oct. 22.

Taseko Mines Ltd., which operates the Gibraltar Mine about 150 kilometres north of 100 Mile House, is seeking restitution from the federal government.

It alleges “government officials engaged in misfeasance in public office, acting deliberately, unlawfully and with knowledge that their conduct was unlawful and likely to harm Taseko.”

While a figure has yet to be determined, the fiscal damages sought against the federal government are potentially very significant, explains Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko.

“When you consider we’ve spent upwards of a $140 million to bring the project to this point in time, and that [the net present value calculation for New Prosperity] is near $2 billion … it becomes potentially a very substantial claim for damages against the federal government.”

In February, a federal environmental assessment panel cited damage to Little Fish Lake and the contamination of nearby Fish Lake in rejecting the most recent New Prosperity proposal, which was strongly supported by the provincial government.

Taseko states the panel relied on false information regarding the company’s ability to prevent seepage from a tailings pond.

The project was first rejected by the federal government in 2010.

While leaders of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, who want to protect Fish Lake, oppose the project, Battison says many of the Tsilhqot’in people, along with people in a number of Cariboo communities, would like to see the project go forward because of its potential economic benefits.

“New Prosperity is the only real opportunity for the economic future, in a mining context, for the First Nations and for the Cariboo.”





100 Mile House Free Press